The book ‘Cindy Sherman: The Early Works 1975-1977 Catalogue Raisonné‘ has become a favourite of mine. During her student years, Sherman created a fascinating body of work. However, she had to wait 25 years before this work became recognised.
During this time, Sherman concentrated specifically on the processes of transformation combined with her now famous complex and strong narratives. Transformation is central to Sherman’s work. In each image she produces, she performs as both the photographer and the subject.
Sherman has named Suzy Lake as being influential in her work (see previous blog post on Lake’s work). Like Lake, Sherman used the white face makeup as a mask that both hid and revealed the person. In the book, Sherman explains how the white mask helps the transformation from one person to another “using white foundation makeup is like neutralizing my face. It’s a similar process to what a clown does, first erasing all the features and then adding features.” (Schor and Sherman 2012: 36)
Despite using herself as the subject, Sherman has always maintained that her work is not of a self-portrait nature.
“I feel I’m anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself. Sometimes I disappear”
– (Cindy Sherman: Early Works 2013)
Sherman’s narrative in figure 2 is enhanced by the transformative use of the white face makeup and the gridded layout of the images. The white makeup masks Sherman’s original identity and leads the viewer into the reveal of the new manifestation of her identity.
Like Sherman (and Lake), my current work uses a variety of props such as wigs and makeup to explore different social identities.
SCHOR, G. and SHERMAN, C. 2012. Cindy Sherman: The Early Works 1975-1977 Catalogue Raisonné. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.
Figure 1: Cindy Sherman | Contemporary Art | Hatje Cantz. 2018. Hatjecantz.de [online]. Available at: http://www.hatjecantz.de/cindy-sherman-2810-1.html [accessed 5 April 2018].
Figure 2: Cindy Sherman: The Early Works, 1975-1977 – Gabriele Schor – Hatje Cantz. 2018. Mottodistribution.com [online]. Available at: http://www.mottodistribution.com/shop/publishers/hatje-cantz/cindy-sherman-the-early-works-1975-1977.html [accessed 3 April 2018].